MFA 2012 Workshop - Introduction to Synthetic Biology

Lagos, Nigeria

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Synthetic biology is poised to become a major driving force in the global economy, displacing the petro-chemical industry as a provider of fuels, medicines and other valuable molecules.  

During this introductory workshop led by Oliver Medvedik(molecular biologist, open source synthetic biologist, co-founder of Genspace and TED2012 Fellow), we will learn to perform several key procedures that are employed in  genetic engineering laboratories around the world. Polymerase Chain Reaction, otherwise referred to as PCR, is an important technology used to make many copies of DNA. The copied genetic material can be used for a variety of purposes, i.e. diagnostics for various pathogens such as malaria or used as the raw material for creating improved crop varieties, such as cassava plants that have improved nutritional profiles.

Another important technique that we will perform is gel electrophoresis. This is used to detect the presence of DNA that has been obtained from a variety of sources, such as PCR. It uses high voltage fields to separate DNA strands based on size and fluorescent dyes to visualize DNA molecules.

Last, we will learn about plasmid DNA, small ring shaped bits of genetic code that can be moved around from one species to another, giving rise to different traits. Discovered as natural components of bacteria, they have since become the workhorse of genetic engineering and synthetic biology. We will learn how to insert these pieces of DNA into organisms so that traits may be altered.

Some knowledge of science is helpful, but not necessary.